Newport County AFC began the new decade just like they concluded the last one as they played out a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade with Cheltenham Town.
Tristan Abrahams’ deft touch put County in-front at the start of the second half, but Cheltenham ensured they extended their long standing unbeaten record on the road when ex-Exile Ben Tozer struck an equaliser four minutes from time.
Michael Flynn elected to keep faith with the side which concluded 2019 with a draw against Stevenage last Sunday at Rodney Parade.
That meant the Exiles continued with the 4-1-2-1-2 formation from the last outing while Cheltenham Town came to Rodney Parade with their familiar 3-4-1-2 system so often implemented by Michael Duff and his side.
You always have to give credit to any away side who come to Rodney Parade and actually want to play football, some of Cheltenham’s play through midfield was sensational although they couldn’t quite get the final pass right in the first half.
In fact, there wasn’t a single shot on target until the 45th minute when County had their best passage of possession.
Some intricate play set George Nurse free down the left, he played it back for captain Joss Labadie who saw a shot blocked by the unknowing Jamille Matt then Scott Flinders kept out the rebound.
Cheltenham’s defence was very compact throughout – you could see why they came to Rodney Parade unbeaten on the road in 10 – and that resilience at the back limited County’s attacking presence, it looked like Jamille Matt would get a shot away on 32 minutes but Will Boyle put in a last ditch challenge.
The Robins’ offensive thought process was impressive, they bossed the midfield areas as County were guilty on occasions of sitting too deep and allowing architects Ryan Broom and George Lloyd to control the central areas.
They struggled to get a killer pass in behind the Exiles which meant they didn’t get too many clear sightings of goal, Tahvon Campbell twice saw shots blocked for corners by Ryan Inniss.
Cheltenham were unlucky not to break the deadlock on 31 minutes. More play through the midfield set Lloyd in behind using his pace, but the cutback just wouldn’t present itself for either former Exile Tozer or Broom who had overrun into the penalty area.
The game needed something special to spark it into life and County provided it just two minutes after the restart following a corner kick routine which they’d worked on meticulously several times yesterday.
The ball was played short to Josh Sheehan who turned on a sixpence to get past his man, he slammed a shot towards the near post which may have been going in without a touch, but Abrahams helped it on its way to put County in front.
Strangely, the goal seemed to stifle proceedings somewhat for the majority of the half but that was always going to suit County because it meant there were virtually no chances for the large majority and Cheltenham lost virtually all their attacking impetus.
The Robins were always going to throw the kitchen sink at the Exiles towards the end and unfortunately for County, despite a resolute defensive performance, Cheltenham only needed one second half chance to score.
You have to respect Cheltenham for sticking to their philosophy and trying to make things happen through midfield, they didn’t get much luck throughout the half, but they stuck to their game plan and got the equaliser on 86 minutes.
Good play down the left gave Chris Hussey time to put the ball into a dangerous position and the cross was absolutely pinpoint for former Exile Tozer to emphatically smash a volley into the middle of the goal.
Newport County AFC (4-1-2-1-2): Tom King, Ryan Haynes, Mickey Demetriou (Matty Dolan 45’), Ryan Inniss, Danny McNamara, Josh Sheehan, George Nurse, Scot Bennett, Joss Labadie (C) (Taylor Maloney 74’), Jamille Matt, Tristan Abrahams (Padraig Amond 90’)
Subs not used: Townsend, Poleon, Jefferies
Cheltenham Town (3-4-1-2): Scott Flinders, Jacob Greaves (Max Sheaf 81’), Will Boyle, Charlie Raglan, Chris Hussey, Ben Tozer (C), Conor Thomas, Sean Long, Ryan Broom, Tahvon Campbell (Gavin Reilly 81’), George Lloyd
Subs not used: Lovett, Clements, Debayo, Ince, Ebanks
Referee: Peter Wright
Attendance: 3,913 (303 AWAY)
Next up for County: Millwall (Emirates FA Cup – AWAY) January 4th 2020